When to Build an iOS or Android App

We frequently talk to businesses and startups trying to decide whether they need to build a mobile app.

One of the first questions you must answer before creating a mobile experience for your customers is whether to use an iOS or Android app to do so, or whether a website that accounts for mobile devices is enough.

A mobile-friendly website (one that is responsive) has become a non-negotiable. Even if you have an app, some customers will use their smartphones to access your website. Google now measures mobile usability and factors it into search-engine algorithms; A responsive website is something every business must have.

Some businesses need an app as well. Does yours? These three questions will help you decide:

  • Are you trying to take advantage of phone capabilities?
    • If you’re trying to use a phone’s capabilities in your apps — GPS location services, the accelerometer, near-field communications, etc. — then an app is usually the best way to do so. The app will provide better performance and user experience in these cases. Payment processing is a relatively new capability that fits this category. And if you’re looking to take advantage of cutting-edge wearable technology like the Apple Watch or Google Glass, you’ll need to go the app route as well.
  • Can you reach your audience using one app platform?
    • The smartphone and tablet markets have two primary operating systems: Apple and Android. The two platforms work differently from a development perspective, and so the cost of developing an app for both can be significant. If you know that your audience focuses on one of these platforms, you can save a step — and some money — by developing an app for that platform exclusively. We’ve seen this work well with internal business apps. If your entire salesforce has company-issued iPads or Galaxy tablets, you can focus on building an app specifically for them.
    • Sometimes, you’ll need to choose one platform to reach your audience because of cost. Generally, starting with an Apple iOS app will be the right choice in these cases. While there are more Android-based smartphones in use than iPhones, iPhone users spend significantly more time using apps. That said, your customer base may be different. Do surveys or use Google analytics to see which platform your visitors use, and determine what level of adaption you need for your app to be successful.
  • What’s your revenue model?
    • Your business reason for connecting with users via mobile can help determine whether an iOS or Android app is necessary.

In general, it’s easier to capture revenue with an app than it is on the web, because you can sell the app in the App Store or Google Marketplace and offer in-app purchases. If you can get customers to buy, it will usually be easy for them to complete the purchase with an app.

You can sell ads both on a responsive website and on an app. If your revenue model is ad-driven, you’ll need to forecast how many impressions you’ll get from either platform, and how the advertising rates for mobile web vs. app compare.

If your revenue is gained through memberships or access, an app may become a key selling point or add-on that will lead to more members and better renewal rates. You’ll need to know your customers and market well to know how the cost/benefit ratio justifies an app build.

Your business needs to go mobile—but it doesn’t always need an app to do it. You need to choose a developer like Worthwhile who will help you decide how to go mobile in a way that will connect with your users.

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